Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Shad'O (PC)

Now available on Steam
Tower defence games are a dime a dozen these days, as they’re a perfect fit for touch controlled games. The creatively name Shad’O, from the small French indie developer Okugi Studios, has opted to not stick with the smartphone/tablet platforms with their title, bringing their creative take on the genre to another well-fitting venue instead: PC/Steam.

We find ourselves taking the role of a young nine year old boy named William, who’s lost deep within his own mind where his memories are threatened by shadowy creatures. With the help of mysterious luminous creatures and his companion teddy bear, he uses light to try and save himself from his own nightmares.

Like a child-like nightmare stripped straight from the creative, yet twisted mind of Tim Burton, the world of Shad’O is dark and whimsical, with the playfields floating amid swirls of sable colours and crooked doorways. But its storyline is every bit a reimagining of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, which coalesce perfectly together to create a playfully strange setting that nudges your desires to know what lies behind the shadows’ veil.

Another Christmas nightmare? 
Like the fog of war in the Command and Conquer games of old, Shad’O brings this idea into light, err… darkness in the popular tower defence gene of today. Each map is covered in a fog of pure black, with one end housing a portal spawning the shadowy creatures and the other holds the desired memory they want to selfishly take from young William. Each map finds a small patch of light that you can place a few luminous miners upon to gain the needed mana to start building your defensive arsenal to combat against the waves of attacking creatures. Placing defensive units here is essentially done in the same generic fashion that you’ve likely become accustomed to, as you’ll strategically place as many units possible to fight off the progressively strengthening waves of enemies. What’s unique here though, is how the shroud of darkness plays to the game’s advantage. You can only place your light companions in areas that can be seen and with each unit placed the darkness is pushed back a bit further – revealing the map hidden beneath. As the maps get continually larger and paths begin to branch, tension levels build, seeing how you never know where the enemies might appear from beneath its black veil next.

Spicing up the gameplay even further is the option to cast spells. With each level completed you gain an unlock point to acquire a new spell with, which can then be used to heal allies, attack enemies, or create environmental effects. The use of spells is greatly emphasised by the limited resources available to build units throughout the game and finding ways to strategically use them is essential to success. Unlock points can also be allocated into your defensive arsenal as well, allowing you to acquire powerful new allies, or to strengthen those already in your possession. This level of depth is a welcomed addition to the somewhat generic gameplay at hand and the option to replay completed levels on the challenging nightmare difficulty for addition allocation points adds a touch of replay value, as well boosting your ability to complete the difficult challenges you’ll face in the game’s final levels.

Castin' a spell
 While the striking aesthetics and outlandish storyline are indeed great aspects of Shad’O, they can’t completely cover-up the fact that the nature of the gameplay quickly becomes repetitive and is best taken in short doses. The game is also quite taxing on your hardware and requires a relatively high-end PC to properly run, or you’ll face a large amount of slowdown and stuttering, even on the lowest settings. All in all though, Shad’O is a nice change of pace from the typical tower defence game and one that fans of the genre should try if they’ve got a capable PC to do so with. 

Somewhere between the twisted parallels of Tim Burton’s mind and the strange world of Where the Wild Things Are lies Okugi Studios’ Shad’O. By shrouding the world in darkness and adding sorcery to the typical tower defence gameplay, they’ve created a fresh new take on the well-worn genre. Limited by its hardware, we’d love to see Shad’O float its way onto other devices to expand its audience, because fans of the genre should definitely consider stepping behinds its shadows. 

- Chris I



Reactions:

 
Live Support